Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.

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The birds and the … horses

I finally have a Jennifer Lauren Afternoon blouse. And an afternoon dress.

It’s a simple design with graceful lines that fit in to my vintage and modern sense of style. I’ve had my eye on the pattern for a while and having made it, I can now tell you it’s a good one. I’m usually a hater of non-functional buttons but in this case, it suits the dress well.

Based on my measurements, I chose to make a size 14 with a full bust adjustment. It took a little trial and error to get the bust dart in the right place, making me glad that I did a trial run.

Laying out the blouse pattern pieces

My “muslin” or tester garment is the blouse version. Knowing I would make the dress in a lovely drapey rayon, I picked through my stash and found just enough of this horse print. When I bought the horse fabric several years ago, I thought it was “Italian Cotton,” but since then I have come to believe it’s rayon. It’s a bit flimsier than the Cotton + Steel bird fabric, but was close enough to check the fit.


Once I was happy with the fit — and really, that was no more work than the FBA— I extended the length. Extending the line from the new post-FBA side seam made the bottom portion approximately a size 16, so I used that size’s length as well. I assembled the dress without the box pleat, thinking I would try wearing it first and decide whether I wanted one and how big it should be. I’m happy with the way it fits without one. I struggled a little, too, with understanding the box pleat instructions, and while the illustrations of the pleat are a little vague, I did find more detailed photos on the website.

Inside bottom of front yoke

The only construction challenge I had was in attaching the front to the front facing. The instructions are good, and illustrations clear, it’s just a tricky thing to put together. On my dress, the second version, I clearly marked the stitching lines and pivot points, and it went together more smoothly. I would suggest that if someone was unsure about doing that part, they try a practice run first. I also appreciate Jen’s optional instructions to topstitch the neck—with my combination of narrow shoulders and large bust, it helps to not expose what ought not be exposed.

The cat wanted in on the photo session.

I enjoyed making this dress, and the tester blouse. It went together relatively quickly and could become a prominent part in my wardrobe. I’m glad I finally sewed it, and while the pattern was provided to me in order to test and review it, the opinions are entirely my own. Jennifer is highlighting one of her patterns each month, and if you are interested in seeing more of her designs and the completed projects other sewists have made, check out her website.


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A Decades of Style Dress

It started in an antique store near Bucks County, Penn. We stopped in there on the way to somewhere else and I came away with three pieces of vintage fabric. I used one piece to make plaid pajamas, and one piece still remains uncut. There were more fabrics in the antique store yet I restrained myself. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m here to tell you about a dress. It’s a very specific dress, and it’s the dress that I wore recently to my friend Sarah Rose’s wedding.

We call ourselves “the grandmas.” Its a long story. The bride is in the floral dress.

I am not one of those people who only buys fabric or patterns when she has a specific project in mind. I think it would be better for my wallet if I were. I have a large stash and probably don’t have to buy any fabric for a year or two (but please don’t tell my husband I said that). When I’m planning to sew a garment, sometimes I start out with the fabric, and sometimes I start out with the pattern, but most of the time I am rolling one of those around in my head looking for inspiration. This time, I knew I wanted to make the Cat’s Cradle Dress from Decades of Sewing.

Pattern cover art

I’ve made a couple Decades of Sewing patterns before and really like the aesthetic. I was also pretty sure that it would be relatively easy to fit this dress and because of the dramatic neckline, it would certainly turn out really cool. And then I scratched my head for a few days trying to decide on a fabric to use. Of course, I was prepared to buy more fabric if I needed.

Working on the pattern

But the perfect fabric for the dress was right there in my stash, from the antique store on the way to Bucks County. One of the most intriguing things about this fabric is the tag, which unfortunately went missing in the two years between buying it and sewing it. The way this fabric was labeled was a big part of what made me buy it. Of course the pink, turquoise, and gold print on it was pretty special, but the seller called it “Ugly Dress Fabric.” I didn’t really think it was ugly — kind of unusual, sure, but not universally ugly. And though I never told the bride about what this fabric was called, I always thought she’d get a kick out of its name.

“Ugly dress fabric”

And for anyone who’s still reading and is curious about my process: I made two muslins and discovered that the plaid fabric I used in the first had a little more stretch and give than my “fashion fabric.” Hence the second one. I also debated for quite a long time over how to orient the stripes in the bodice and the skirt of the dress. I was able to try it on the dress form.

And the step that was both fun and took me to a style place that I wasn’t expecting: trying out the trims. I bought 3 different trims and thought I would like the gold one best—As you can see I went with the turquoise.

Thanks for reading. Do you ever change directions while making something? Do you have any good stories about buying “secondhand” fabric?